Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Charity Begins At Home?

I recently filled a couple of bags of old clothes and donated to a national charity (won’t name it but it’s very well known) which has a chain of shops across the city of Derby and the rest of the country. It’s a good feeling knowing that someone will benefit from recycled clothes even though my sense fashion is critiqued by my peers! Later that day I was watching the news on the tv and caught a discussion part way through about how our taxes are not split evenly across the UK, with many complaining of higher levels of government expenditure in London and the South East part of England. This got me thinking…….

National charities work in a similar way. Across the country they receive donations and clothes for recycling from individuals like you and I. Many of these shops are run by volunteers and usually 1 or 2 paid staff. I looked into the financial turnover of 2 charities which operate to the model above, one working with older people and one with disabled people with a very specific impairment. Both had income exceeding £35m a year. Now I’ve been working in the local voluntary sector for over 20 years and I’m quite confident in saying that very little money is handed down to the local branches of the said 2 charities to run free services to that particular group of people. Seems very familiar indeed!

It’s also quite concerning to note that these local branches are often expected to raise their own income and then give a portion to head office (often in London!) and such groups then look towards local authorities for grant funding – and they get it too! This is the bit where I’ll declare an interest. As CEO of a local charity, we are often ‘competing’ for funding with groups who have national affiliation to a head office which chooses to distribute finances elsewhere.

Recently here in Derby, a large train-making company lost a contract to a German counterpart. Nationally, there was an uproar that preference should be given to UK based companies. I don’t know about you but I think the same concept applies at a local level for locally based not-for-profit groups bidding for local contracts/grants.
Local authorities, CCG’s and even grant making trusts need to think very seriously about their procurement, commissioning or grant-making processes which can often irreversibly damage the ability of local groups to develop into something special and unique in meeting local need.

The next time you donate your clothes or perhaps even cash, ask the charity shop manager how much of the income they raise is spent on people locally. I think we know the answer will be quite vague.

Agree with Amo?  Don’t Agree With Amo?  Get a life Amo?

Amo Raju – CEO Disability Direct

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